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edge staff writer


Rock of Ages' less than solid

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Movie musical combines the worst of Broadway, 80s rock

While they were once a vital part of the cinematic landscape, movie musicals have become much more of a hit or miss proposition. A musical with both good music and good execution can still be a bona fide hit, but the sad truth is that one or the other of those two primary factors is often found lacking.

'Rock of Ages,' based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, is Hollywood's latest effort.

It's 1987 the golden age of the LA rock scene. Young Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough, 'Footloose') is a starry-eyed girl who has moved to the big city from Tulsa, Oklahoma to be a famous singer. Upon her arrival, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta, TV's '90210'), an aspiring young rocker who just happens to work at the legendary Bourbon Room, a music club owned and operated by aging rocker Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin, TV's '30 Rock') and his assistant Lonny (Russell Brand, 'Arthur').

Said club is also serving as the venue for the last hoorah of Arsenal, the biggest rock band in the world. Arsenal is fronted by the enigmatic Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), a rock god who is considering going solo. Jaxx's manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti, 'The Ides of March') might have other plans, however.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston, TV's 'Breaking Bad') has decided that his administration needs to think about 'the children,' and so his wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones, 'The Rebound') takes that ball and runs with it, organizing protests up and down the Strip in an attempt to rid the city of that dirty, sexy rock and roll music.

From there, 'Rock of Ages' falls out as predictably as you'd expect. Sherrie and Drew fall in love, only to have a misunderstanding tear them apart. Dennis is faced with massive financial issues that threaten the Bourbon Room's future. Patricia's protests grow in size and vehemence, but only later do we discover why. And Stacee Jaxx starts to question what this whole 'rock god' thing is really about.

It's all just so boring.

'Rock of Ages' doesn't feel like a solid narrative so much as a forced, stitched-together plot that exists solely to get from one Broadway-ized 80s rock song to the next. If you can think of a name band from that era, odds are good that at least one of that band's songs is featured in this film. Poison, Journey, Foreigner, Guns n' Roses, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon the list goes on and on and on. Unfortunately, these songs have been rearranged and utterly sanitized in the Broadway tradition, so even these rock songs that you love basically play like showtunes turned up to 11. It's not bad per se it's just weirdly homogenized.

This film's biggest issue likely rests with its two 'romantic' leads. Hough and Boneta have decent voices and are certainly good-looking, but they just don't feel rock and roll. They're like a pair of animated Disney characters made real and dropped onto the Strip they're all wide-eyed, apple-cheeked vanilla; I've never seen two people look less sexy while trying to be sexy.

That said, the supporting cast is pretty darned good. Baldwin and Brand are a fun pairing. Zeta-Jones is very good she tends to shine in projects like this and it's nice to be reminded of Bryan Cranston's comedic chops (albeit all too briefly). Giamatti has some great moments; so do Malin Ackerman ('Wanderlust') and Mary J. Blige (who absolutely crushes a couple of songs despite not making her first appearance until almost an hour and a half into the film).

And then there's Tom Cruise. As much as we love to rag on Cruise for being a loony tune, there's no disputing the guy's commitment to his craft. It sounds weird to say, but Tom Cruise is hands down the best part of this movie. His portrayal of the lost soul rock star doesn't work 100 percent of the time, but it's the most nuanced, well-developed character in the entire film. And perhaps most shocking of all? Dude can sing. For real.

'Rock of Ages' is, well bad. It basically combines the worst bits of 1980s rock with the worst bits of Broadway musicals, stirs in a little Hollywood cynicism and a whole lot of focus group suggestions and calls it good. With the exception of a couple of catchy numbers and the performance of Cruise, there's not much here. Even those nostalgic for the music of their youth might find themselves disappointed.

1 out of 5


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